[J-drama Review] Samurai Gourmet

“If you have a choice, why not try something you’ve never had before?”
-Takeshi Shizuko, “Anniversary Oden,” Samurai Gourmet

Having just finished another J-drama food series, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, Netflix rightly suggested I try Samurai Gourmet, a television series with a lighter spirit and distinct sense of humor. In addition to the food and individual stories, I was drawn to the series by its main actor, Naoto Takenaka, who I loved in the live action music series, Nodame Cantabile.

Gourmet Samurai is an episodic series spanning 12, 25-minute episodes. Played by Takenaka, Takeshi Kasumi is a retired salaryman unsure of how to fill his now free days. Thanks to the suggestion of his wife, Kasumi steps out in search of a hobby and stumbles across the joy of dining out. His food discoveries are always accompanied by a hallucination (or is it?) of a wandering samurai. This samurai, played by the very handsome Tamayama Tetsuji, helps Kasumi overcome his misgivings, like drinking in the middle of the day, eating properly in a formal setting, and even dealing with grouchy chefs. The more Kasumi learns from the samurai, the more he is able to appreciate his new found hobby.

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[Film] An (a.k.a. Sweet Bean)

On my flight home from Australia, I had the luck of stumbling across the 2015 film An while browsing the available movies. An tells the story of a Japanese dorayaki seller and few of the people who impact his life. Dorayaki is a confection pairing little pancakes with an, sweet red bean paste. Obviously it was the setting of the dorayaki shop that drew me in, but it was the story that kept me watching, smiling, then later crying unashamedly. Thank goodness the plane’s lights were dimmed! I really had no idea what I was walking into–the only real hints I had were the drama categorization and the short trailer showing Sentaro learning how to make real an from Yoshii Tokue. The movie ended up sharing so much more than that, including such topics as the human spectrum of emotions regarding helping others, the cages others build and that we create on our own, as well as our resilience and ability to start again. As you can tell, this discussion will include a fair amount of spoilers, so if that deters you from watching, please take my suggestion now to try the film and let me know your thoughts.

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